By Jakub Rudnik
CHAMPAIGN — Glenbard West proved without a doubt that it is the best boys basketball team in Illinois for the 2021-22 season.
The Hilltoppers began the season at the top of the polls, and it closed out the year with a 56-34 win in the 4A state title over No. 2 Whitney Young.
Glenbard West dominated the game much like it did the season: from beginning to end. The Hilltoppers led 13-6 after the first quarter and 25-16 at halftime. A 17-4 third quarter in favor of Glenbard West put the result out of question.
No Illinois team beat the 37-1 Hilltoppers, who only fell to California’s Sierra Canyon — a nationally ranked team — on a buzzer-beater.
“The accomplishment and the goals that these guys had at the beginning of the season and summer, to maintain them; to never look ahead, to respect all opponents; to play the right way, to have the sportsmanship, the caliber of character they have,” Jason Opoka said. “Words can’t explain how proud I am to be their coach.”
Guard Paxton Warden scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Gonzaga recruit Braden Huff scored in a variety of ways, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Forward Ryan Renfro had eight points and four rebounds.
“Especially this game, just being the last with these guys, it was for sure one I was ready for and not willing to lose,” Huff said. “Big games like these, I just get really amped for and excited for. I think we all do.”
Glenbard West’s all-senior starting lineup of Warden, Huff, Bobby Durkin, Ryan Renfro and Caden Pierce proved once again that it had too many weapons to be stopped. The seasoned group won the first state title in season history.
“It’s kind of a sad moment, for sure, because it’s our last moments together [as a basketball team,'” Warden said.
Whitney Young matched its second-place finish of 2018. It won a state title the previous year.
Young was the only Chicago team in Saturday’s championship games. Its loss guaranteed the first season without a Chicago state title team since 2006. A Chicago team had one at least one state title every season since Illinois moved to four classes in 2008.
With a Whitney Young loss, it will be at least 1,470 days between a Chicago boys basketball team winning a state title.— Jakub Rudnik (@jakubrudnik) March 13, 2022
Orr (2A) and Providence St. Mel (1A) won state titles on March 9, 2019.
Chicago’s next shot at title games is March 18, 2023.
Senior forward Xavier Amos led Whitney Young (25-10) with 14 points and five rebounds. Senior forward AJ Casey and senior point guard Dalen Davis each finished with six points and four rebounds.